BOISE, Idaho (Legal Newsline) — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a lawsuit Oct. 2 against Jackson Energy, a division of Jackson Food Stores, for allegations of disability discrimination.
The EEOC alleged Penny Wightman worked as a dispatcher for Jackson Energy in Meridian, Idaho, and suffered an injury to her wrist that required surgery. Wightman’s recovery was set to take four to six months.
The company purportedly asked her to train a replacement employee and then forced her to take unpaid medical leave until she could work with zero restrictions. Additionally, the company purportedly failed to provide an accommodation that could have allowed her to continue working, such as voice recognition software.
"Jackson acknowledged that Ms. Wightman was an excellent employee. But when she became injured, the company refused to even consider potential reasonable accommodations that might have allowed her to fully perform her duties, even with her restrictions," said EEOC senior trial attorney May Che. "Instead, Jackson had her train her replacement, forced her to take medical leave, then discarded her after that expired."
The EEOC seeks monetary damages for Wightman and injunctive relief against the company to prevent further discrimination.
“To insist that workers are 100 percent healed before they can return to work defeats the whole purpose of the ADA, which is to ensure that when qualified employees with disabilities are ready and willing to work, they have that opportunity to earn a living instead of being sidelined by discrimination,” said EEOC Seattle field director Nancy Sienko.